Feb 232005
 
Authors: Nicholas LoFaro

This Week In EPs!!

Aesop Rock, "fast cars, danger, fire and knives"

Accredited in the unseen culture of intellectual hip-hop exists an emcee named Aesop Rock. Aesop writes his lyrics much like the ol'fables in the sense that he edifies his cautions and societal observations but opposite the fables that you might be used to from childhood.

Aesop will often write about how people act and speak like animals rather than the other way around. Upon first listen, the beats and the funky background instruments will be definitive, but if you are to digest Aesop Rock's lyrics, you'll find that he is a hip-hop laureate. And combining his infectious groves and messages with artistic progressivism, Aesop Rock may soon be an ethical salvation from the mundane and "bling-bling wearing, Bacardi-drinking, rump-shaking persona of mainstream hip-hop."

However intelligent Aesop Rock's albums have been, don't think that listening to it is going to be like a spoken-word reading of the encyclopedia, for Aesop's New York City street attitude has not left his mentality. He is content in being an outsider to pop music and seems to live easily torn between cynicism and hope.

On the creepy organ song "Zodiaccupuncture," Aesop Rock speaks ambiguously about fate and nonsense in America, while on the song "Holy Smokes" he points out every folly and fault within fanatical religious culture that he can come up with, but also admits to his own misunderstandings about the idea of war and peace: "Just a lit fuse in the back of the pews watching a thousand flavors of the same God feud/I got a basic good and evil sensibility born/good neighbor know a halo wouldn't fit over horns."

"Rickety-Rackety" is a funky guitar- and bass-fueled jam, and "Food, Clothes, Medicine" closes the album with some female vocal noises over a heavy beat and a mean-sounding guitar riff.

For fans of Aesop Rock's previous albums, this will be a small addition to your collection, for the album is less than 30 minutes long and is a mere seven songs long. The album does include a 90-page booklet of Aesop's lyrics from this album and his previous ones called "The Living Human Curiosity Sideshow."

Iron and Wine, "Woman King"

It may be safe to say that Iron and Wine, aka Sam Beam, may have just seen a whole new horizon with his placement on the "Garden State" soundtrack, when he recorded a slow and melancholy acoustic version of The Postal Service's "Such Great Heights." However new to the scene Iron and Wine may seem to be, he has been hard at work in recording two albums and two EPs in less than two years. His new EP, entitled "Woman King," is a terrific, although short, six-song sample of Beam's latest musical endeavor. With his obvious Nick Drake comparisons, it is often difficult for Iron and Wine to avoid comparison, but with the new additions of hand drums, violin, slide guitar and female vocals on "Woman King," it might help to push him further toward his own distinguishable area.

Iron and Wine's recognizable whisper-singing and soft, folk-acoustic guitar style is prevalent on "Woman King," but background slide guitar, banjo and violin work compliment the album's somber and ambient orchestration. As the title suggests, and with songs such as "Woman King," "Jezebel" and "My Lady's House," it seems that Iron and Wine has chosen to create a thematic focus on female characters on this EP. His lyrics swim through worship, praise and hope -for women both personal and archetypal – and through his own poetic skill, Iron and Wine avoids all clich/s of the "boo-who" and "ooh baby, ooh baby" lyrical aim of the usual pop-music love song: "Hundred years, hundred more/someday we may see a woman king."

If you have heard the "Garden State" soundtrack or any of Iron and Wine's previous releases, "Woman King" will be a nice chance to see where he is headed, and if Nick Drake, Neil Young or Gary Jules are artists in your music collection, Iron and Wine will be well worth a listen.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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